Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Five Detectives Beyond Borders-approved soccer books

If you want a skeptical view of FIFA, world soccer's governing body, on the eve of the sport's quadrennial World Cup but can't stand the pubic-hair jokes, manic shimmying, and celebrity pandering of John Oliver, try Soccer in Sun and Shadow (published in the appropriate countries as Football in Sun and Shadow) by Eduardo Galeano.

Galeano writes with a palpable yearning for the days when soccer was a wide-open game, of the joy with which Hungarians, Brazilians, and his own Uruguyan compatriots once played the sport.  He excoriates FIFA's shameful banning of Hungarian players who supported that country's doomed uprising against its Soviet-imposed government in 1956. And he structures the book in extremely short, thematically organized essays, which makes it exceedingly easy reading for non-experts. (I'm only the most casual of soccer fans, and I've made just one visit to South America.)

(I will give Oliver points for including in his anti-FIFA rant a reference to Qatar, the host — for now — of the 2022 World Cup, as a slave state. For some reason, the Gulf states' treatment of dark-skinned peoples seems not to get much play in the American media. I'd hate to think said media are afraid of offending anyone.)

In the meantime, here are four more recommendations from the Detectives Beyond Borders soccer/football/fútbol desk of books that will take you miles from the moronic wasteland of American late-night television:
  1. Brilliant Orange: The Neurotic Genius of Dutch Soccer, by David Winner. Odd theories and insightful observations that tie the Dutch school of "total football" tactics to the country's geography.
  2. Red or Dead, by David Peace. A moving, stylistically demanding, immensely satisfying novel about former Liverpool soccer manager Bill Shankly and his love for his adopted team and city.
  3. Across the Line, by Garbhan Downey. A riotous slapstick comedy about the lengths to which rival former paramilitary men in Northern Ireland will go to best one another in a soccer competition.
  4. Off Side, by Manuel Vázquez Montalbán. Even more satisfying as an ode to the back streets of Barcelona than it is as a mystery.
© Peter Rozovsky 2014

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8 Comments:

Blogger Duke 81 said...

Have you seen A Season With Verona by Tim Parks? An English professor/author living in Verona follows his city's team through a serie A season including road games. Fascinating and hilarious.

June 11, 2014  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

I don't know it, but I like "fascinating and hilarious." Thanks.

June 11, 2014  
Blogger seana graham said...

I haven't seen it, but I've read a couple of Tim Parks novels and he is great.

June 12, 2014  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Two votes for Mr. Parks. But hope you will also look into Eduardo Galeano's book, a fine, painless, illuminating guide to a sport, a society, and all kinds of good things.

June 12, 2014  
Blogger adrian mckinty said...

Peter


I've read the first 3 and enjoyed them. I'd also rec the movie Next Goal Wins especially for non soccer fans.

June 12, 2014  
Blogger adrian mckinty said...

Oh and one book to turn you off soccer is Fever Pitch - what a big wank stew that novel was.

June 12, 2014  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Adrian, does your first three include Galeano's book? I'd recommend as perfect occasional (that is, bathroom) reading. It's set up almost like an encyclopedia, with one- and two- page entries, including one on each World Cup up to the time of the book's publication in the mid-1990s.

June 12, 2014  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Yep, I've seen you weigh in on "Fever Pitch" before. Sounds as if Nick Hornby is the anti-David Peace.

Speaking of non-soccer fans, this may be a watershed moment for America's casual or non-fans. The World Cup starts today, and I have yet to read any articles musing on the possibility that soccer will finally, one day, sometime, break through to mass success in this country. Also, my newspaper has published just one article about fans in a given ethnic community coming together at local bars, bodegas, or souvenir shops to root for their team in the World Cup, and even that was and exception, a nice piece about Nigeria's team and a protest for the kidnapped girls. We in the media may finally be ready to settle down and let soccer be what it is in the U.S. Call it the stage of acceptance (or else fatigue over publishing the same crap year after four years.)

June 12, 2014  

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